Tag Archives: reasonable adjustments

Part of the problem or part of the solution? How far do ‘reasonable adjustments’ guarantee ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’? (chapter, 2014)

Reeve, D. (2014) ‘Part of the problem or part of the solution? How far do ‘reasonable adjustments’ guarantee ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’?’, in K. Soldatic, H. Morgan and A. Roulstone (eds) Disability, Spaces and Places of Policy Exclusion, Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 99-114.

This chapter looks at ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the environment and shows how they can cause indirect psycho-emotional disablism.

Part of the problem or part of the solution? A discussion of the reality of ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’ (paper, 2012)

Reeve, D. (2012) ‘Part of the problem or part of the solution? A discussion of the reality of ‘Inclusive Access for Disabled Customers’’, paper presented at Disability – Spaces and Places of Exclusion Symposium, Lancaster University, 16-17 April.


Although disabled people in the UK had the right to use services and access goods in 1995, it was only on 2004 that the Disability Discrimination Act (replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act) was extended to demand that service providers make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to physical features which made it difficult for disabled people to access their services. However the failure of planners and architects to embrace inclusive design has meant that Western cities reveal a ‘design apartheid where building form and design are inscribed with the values of an ‘able-bodied’ society’ (Imrie, 1998: 129). In addition, the ‘reasonable adjustments’ which are made often concentrate on aiding independence through the provision of physical access, but at the cost of disabled people’s self-esteem and dignity. Thus the adjustments made are often far from ideal for the people who use them.

This paper will discuss how indirect psycho-emotional disablism can arise from moving within ‘landscapes of exclusion’ (Kitchin, 1998: 351) caused by poorly thought through ‘reasonable adjustments’. Whilst a flight of steps can exclude a wheelchair user (structural disablism), being forced to access a building through a separate back entrance can remind that person that they are a second-class citizen, who is being reluctantly included. Consequently the wheelchair user may decide not to access this building and ironically the ‘solution’ to a physical barrier has created a new psycho-emotional barrier which maintains social exclusion and isolation. If one takes into account the other forms of psycho-emotional disablism which people with impairments face on a daily basis e.g. prejudiced interactions with others and internalised oppression, then the emotional effect produced by being reminded that one is ‘out of place’ (Kitchin, 1998: 351) needs to be taken as seriously as the more common structural disablism caused by inaccessible environments.

This seminar paper was developed into a subsequent book chapter.

Beyond the social model: The experience of psycho-emotional disablism (paper, 2010)

Reeve, D. (2010) ‘Beyond the social model: The experience of psycho-emotional disablism’, paper presented at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, Royal Geographical Society, London, 1-3 September.


This paper will discuss the experience of psycho-emotional disablism, which is a neglected dimension of disablism often relegated to the realm of ‘personal trouble’ rather than ‘political issue’ by typical social model analyses of disability.

One way of rectifying this omission is to use an extended social relational definition of disablism (Thomas, 2007). This framework explicitly recognises the social oppression experienced by people with impairments which operates at both the public and personal levels, affecting what people can do (structural disablism) as well as who they can be (psycho-emotional disablism).

Structural disablism includes the barriers typically associated with the social model such as inaccessible environments and discrimination in employment. Psycho-emotional disablism is a form of social oppression which undermines emotional well-being, self-worth and self-esteem such as dealing with prejudicial comments as well as internalized oppression.

Both structural and psycho-emotional disablism can exclude people with impairments – a wheelchair user can be excluded by the reactions of others e.g. the ‘Does he take sugar?’ response from strangers as well as by a flight of steps at the front of a building. Therefore, any sociological understanding of the lived experience of disablism has to take account of social oppression that operates at both the public and personal levels, structural disablism and psycho-emotional disablism.

Drawing on accounts of people with physical impairments I will discuss the complex nature of (in)direct psycho-emotional disablism and reveal how it is intertwined with structural disablism, impairment effects, time, place, space and other facets of someone’s identity.